We’re super excited that it’s finally summer … and you know what that means. It’s summer vacation time! No matter the size of your vacation fund, it’s easy to save money on summer travel by following these six savvy spending summer travel tips.
1. Do Your Research
Thanks to the internet, travel today is simultaneously easier and more difficult than ever, thanks to the abundance of information available. Sites like TripAdvisor.com, a review site specifically for travel, offers insider and unbiased reviews on thousands of destinations worldwide. It’s a good idea to use these sites to scope out your tour operator, restaurants, and hotels before you book. Take negative reviews with a grain of salt; remember that many travelers go to review sites only when they’ve had a negative experience, but generally these reviews are relatively accurate. You can also try a site like GasBuddy.com to see where gas is cheapest along your route — or use sites like Kayak or Bing.com/Travel to predict the cheapest days to fly. Travelers who are flexible and do extensive research before booking are likely to get the best deals.
2. Consider an Alternate Location
Sure, everyone loves going to the beach or lake in the summer, but these destinations enjoy premium rates as well. Consider a mountain destination known for skiing in the summer and enjoy gorgeous hiking and biking and spectacular mountain vistas at more than half off peak ski season rates, or try an early summer vacation to the Caribbean, where rates are also slashed significantly. Just don’t wait too long – July through November can mean hurricane season.
3. Go Big With Private Home Rental
When traveling with multiple families or couples, bypass the hotel rooms and use sites like HomeAway.com, VRBO or TimeandPlace.com to book a private home. Reserving a villa or townhome is often more economical on a per-night basis when you’re splitting between multiple families, and the added benefit of full kitchens can mean food costs decrease too. Even a luxury home rental can be cheaper than a hotel room, and many come with perks like private pools, game rooms, and concierge services.
4. Travel Mid-Week
Sure, many of us like to save vacation days by traveling over a weekend. But a great way to save money on both hotels and airfare is to book a trip during off-peak days. For business (city) hotels in places like Chicago, New York City, or Washington, DC, rates are often cheapest on a Friday and Saturday night when business travelers leave the city. In resort destinations and areas with strong leisure travel markets like Las Vegas, mid-week rates are often almost $100 per night cheaper. If you want to create a “weekend away” experience without breaking the bank, try a Sunday to Tuesday stay in a resort destination, or a Thursday to Saturday getaway in a city. That way, you’ll enjoy a weekend way at home (perfect for running errands or catching up on housework) and the benefit of a vacation without the crowds and extra costs.
5. Consider Last-Minute Reservations
Unlike airfare, hotel reservations are often cheapest if you wait until the last minute to book. Hotels make their revenue when they see “heads in beds,” and an unsold room is a missed rate opportunity. Check in with your favorite hotels on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter to see if they advertise last-minute rates. You can also call the hotel directly on the day of arrival. Most hotels aren’t willing to negotiate rates, but you may well get lucky. Or, if you’re not picky about your hotel, try an app like Hotel Tonight, which offers up last-minute reservations at deep discounts. Hotels themselves post their inventory, and rates can be as much as 70% off retail. On a recent trip to Newport, Rhode Island, I scored a suite at a bed and breakfast for just $99, where an advance rate would have cost $400 or more.
6. Get a Flash Sale Deal or a Loyalty Club Special
Being a ‘member’ is almost always good for something in the travel world. Many loyalty clubs – from Marriott Rewards to Fairmont President’s Club and Kimpton’s InTouch memberships, offer special rates, discounts and offers to their loyalty members. The best part? These clubs are free to join, and can include perks like prioritized upgrades, free breakfast, minibar credits, and complimentary internet. In many cases, sales are advertised first to the loyalty club members, so you can also get the inside scoop. Other “members only” sites like Jetsetter.com or TravelZoo’s Top 20 deals also offer deep discounts on select hotels and resorts on a limited time only basis. These deals are often called “flash sales,” because while you can often book your hotel room months in advance, the sales last for only 24 hours to a week in length. You can also try memberships to organizations like Costco or AAA, both of which offer exclusive travel discounts.
Let us know in the comments below how you’re saving money on travel this summer!